Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In Bloom

During early July, communities throughout the UK, from the smallest villages through to cities,  prepared for some important visits. No it wasn't the Olympic Torch or Her Majesty on her Jubilee tour but the judges from Britain in Bloom and the regionals that lead to them. In my case, I was involved in judging Small Villages and Urban Communities for East Midlands in Bloom. Some people may not be aware of the procedure which involves entering at the regional level and if successful then being promoted to the national Britain in Bloom.

Woops - caught you! One of the volunteers tries to remove a weed without me seeing!
As always, I was amazed at what was achieved by tiny communities, some with only a few hundred inhabitants. In nearly every case there were one or two key enthusiasts who not only encouraged other participants, but often did much of the work themselves. In one case there was a sprightly but elderly lady in her mid-80s, who only complained that there was nobody to help  her barrow the compost around! All the rest she did herself!  In a competition such as this, there are marks in three categories, firstly for horticultural achievement, secondly for environmental responsibility and finally for community participation. We were shown beautiful parks, tiny village greens, flowering meadows, beautiful front gardens, fascinating heritage, some enterprising schools and so much more.

A village front garden

Perennial borders on a village green

Colour borders in a park maintained by volunteers

The stripiest lawns award!

A new wildlife garden created by students on an allotment site.

Wildflower meadow in a city suburb

Murals in a neighbourhood park

Flowers and benches on a city terrace

Amazing plants all in pots at the side of the street

Community allotment

Gardens of a retirement home, maintained mainly by residents
A churchyard being redesignated for wildlife

If I had one criticism of almost all the entries, it was a failure to create the WOW factor with bedding plants. Almost every community had hanging baskets, planters and flower beds but in most cases they were too far apart, insubstantial and lacked any real power. Individual hanging baskets, widely spaced on lamp-posts are simply lost. One community proudly told us of five new flower beds, but they were so small and contained such a mixture of plants that there was really no effect.  The following are examples of hard work that hasn't been effective - rather sad.

Too small to have any effect!

Too many types of plant to be effective.

Old tyres are never attractive!

Bare soil doesn't win points!

Nice new bed but poor choice of planting

Baskets and planters need to be grouped to make the maximum use of colour. Flower beds need to be as large as possible and grouped together in an important area to achieve the wow effect. No need to grow more plants, just group them in bigger blocks of colour. Some good examples to follow including some from other years.

Small bed but well planted and located in key position - excellent!
War memorial garden - maintained by volunteer - great colour!

Effective use of baskets

Two good planters grouped together

Old muck spreader used as giant planter in rural area.
 Nowadays, most ground maintenance is sensitive to the environment and it is sad to hear of occurrences where it is not. In one village, there was an area of magnesian  Limestone meadowland, complete with native orchids. Despite requests over a number of years for this to be allowed to grow and be cut later, the contractors, employed by the parish council insist on close mowing. A few brave orchids were protected by wire netting enclosures and even some of these have been strimmed. So barbaric!

Now whilst this may not all be the pinnacle of horticulture, it does represent a huge number of people involved in growing plants and looking after their environment - its got to be good! Over the two week period we awarded one Silver Gilt and six Silver awards but if you want to know who got what, you'll have to wait until the awards are announced in September!

1 comment:

  1. It's good to get an insight as to what a judge like you are looking for when inspecting participant of BIB. It's endearing to see the communities participating, wish more would!